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Netflix original ’13 Reasons Why’ causes controversy among parents and teachers

Samhita Sunkara, News Editor

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“13 Reasons Why,” a Netflix series that premiered on March 31, has since conjured mixed reactions among parents and teens. The show follows the book written by Jay Asher in 2007 about a high school girl named Hannah Baker. Hannah commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes, each side of the tape revealingone reason behind her death. Clay Jensen, former friend and crush, takes the audience through the tapes as they and himself figure out the reasons for her suicide.

The show, however, puts a graphic spin on the book, including scenes of rape and detailed depictions of Hannah’s suicide. This immediately drew attention from viewers, who exhibited two schools of thought: either that the show brings awareness to real life issues, or that it influences others to the feelings Hannah experiences.

Recently, parents of children in various school districts around the county attempted to warn other parents about the show and its explicit nature. Locally, Muskegon schools have sent home letters to parents explaining the show and its potential effects on high schoolers, directing them to allow for open discussion with their children.

Counselor Todd Tarnutzer explains that at Portage Central, individual counseling is available as needed for students going through tough situations. If needed, the school’s counselors have the ability to refer students to experts such as therapists, if necessary.

“We ask direct, open-ended questions, listen closely, show support, communicate with parents and work to get students outside help as needed,” Tarnutzer said.

As for the show’s message itself, Tarnutzer sides with the argument that television shows like “13 Reasons Why” bring positive light towards the subject of suicide and depression.

.I think it brings awareness and a reminder that mental health issues exist. Suicide occurs to people of all ages,” Tarnutzer said. “It’s not always easy to recognize the signs. As a parent and counselor, [the show] may provide me with some red flags to look out for.”

On the other hand, parents such as Azra Jabeen don’t believe the idea of the show is beneficial to other students and children.

“It’s a bad message for people who actually are mentally ill/suicidal, even though it sends a powerful message about suicide and mental health,” Jabeen said. “People can have different reactions to it, so it isn’t sending a positive message, especially for young people.”

Students believe that the series is a motivator to be more aware and proactive about mental health issues, rather than a show that incites feelings of depression leading to suicide.

Sophomore Alexis Brodie has seen the show, and believes that it teaches good morals to students about bullying.

“I have seen the show and I did enjoy it, I think it really teaches people how words have a huge impact on people’s lives,” Brodie says.

Sophomore Sherry Sokolowski also enjoys the series, and adds that it gives a realistic depiction of conditions that students often undergo.

“I think [‘13 Reasons Why’] brings awareness to important issues because it’s an accurate representation of what some people go through,” Sokolowski said.

Netflix announced on Sunday that the show has renewed for a second season due to the popularity of the show, but the release date is unknown.

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The official source of student news at Portage Central High School
Netflix original ’13 Reasons Why’ causes controversy among parents and teachers